Archive for the 'Attributes' Category

Is this a true statement: ‘Nothing is impossible with God’?

Saturday, August 30th, 2014

impossible triangle by jarda - impossible triangle

(impossible triangle, openclipart)

By Spencer D Gear

In my church a couple of weeks ago, a man in his 70s was telling the children’s story when he made the statement to these children under 10 years of age who were sitting in the front rows: ‘Nothing is impossible with God’. One boy, aged about 7, shouted out, ‘God cannot sin’. When the congregation heard his reply, there was applause across the audience. But this child had hit on something that refutes this statement, ‘Nothing is impossible with God’ as a general principle.

Impossible to restore to repentance

I met another person promoting this line on a Christian forum. We were discussing a passage of Scripture that gives Calvinists the heebie geebies of denial (that lets my Reformed Arminian theological cat out of the bag):

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt (Heb 6:4-6 ESV).

Calvinists don’t like the idea that it is impossible to restore to repentance those who have fallen away from the faith (i.e. those who have committed apostasy). So they try all kinds of twists and turns to make it say what it doesn’t say. This fellow wrote in extra large font:

clip_image002 THE SCRIPTURE WE WERE TALKING ABOUT DID NOT MAKE ANY REFERENCE TO WHAT IS AND IS NOT POSSIBLE FOR GOD.[1]

Another fellow added:

clip_image002[1] THAT’S RIGHT.  YOU HAVE TO LEARN TO USE ALL OF THE BIBLE TO UNDERSTAND IT. Then he added these verses of support:

clip_image002[2] ‘Mt 19:26 – and looking at them Jesus said, “WITH PEOPLE this is impossible, but with God ALL things are possible”’, and

clip_image002[3] ‘Lk 1:37 says NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD.  That means God can renew someone if He chooses’.[2]

What’s wrong with using these two verses? They are specific to an occasion and do not express a general biblical principle concerning the nature of God. See my further explanation of Luke 1:37 below.

It is impossible for God to sin

How should I reply? My response was:[3]

Is it possible for God to sin? Of course not! Therefore, it is impossible for God to do some things. Sin is one of them.

Heb 6:4-6 tells us another one that it is ‘impossible’ for God to do and that is ‘to restore again to repentance’ those who ‘fall away’.

There’s another thing God cannot do: ‘Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one’ (James 1:13). So it is IMPOSSIBLE for God to be tempted with evil.

But there’s more: God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18; Titus 1:2).  God is eternal by nature so it is IMPOSSIBLE for God to stop being God (Psalm 90:2), In addition, it is IMPOSSIBLE for God to deny Himself (2 Tim. 2:13).

Why don’t you take a read of this article in Christianity Today, ‘10 things God cannot do‘?

You make this claim: ‘That is why you need to use ALL of God’s word to understand it.’

In what I have provided above, when we read the entire Bible – which is what you requested – we find that there are a number of things that God CANNOT DO. It is IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD TO DO.

Your claim is: ‘Lk 1:37 says NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD.  That means God can renew someone if He chooses.

That’s not what the Scriptures state, brother. Heb 6:4-6 is crystal clear. When people fall away from the faith, God has told us that ‘it is impossible to restore [them] again to repentance’ (v. 4). When will you come to accept what the Bible says about what it is IMPOSSIBLE for God to do?

But … but!

Another replied to my emphasis about this impossibility of restoring to repentance after apostasy:

I’ve seen many stories, though, of people who have fallen away and repented and come back to a full Christianity. Hebrews does seem to imply that is impossible. Does that mean that those people, even though they have repented and gone on to lead a full Christian life, are damned anyway?

I realize there are several seeming contradictions appearing in Scripture but this one seems to be particularly disturbing. Matthew, after all, is relating what Jesus Himself said. Wouldn’t what Jesus said take precedence over what anybody else says?[4]

This is a valid point. I am one such person who went very lukewarm towards the Lord when I was about aged 20 and then renewed my commitment about 8 years later. Therefore, I replied:[5]

I’ve provided a detailed exposition of the Hebrews 6:4-6 passage inOnce Saved, Always Saved, or Once Saved, Lost Again‘. This section of Scripture is referring to those who commit apostasy (repudiate the faith) and not to those who back-slide – in my understanding. There is no place for repentance for those who commit apostasy.

One of the saddest of such cases is seen in the apostasy of Charles Templeton who in the 1940s was an evangelistic colleague of Billy Graham in Youth for Christ and then departed from the faith [see ‘Charles Templeton (1915-2001)’]. His story is told in his book Farewell to God (1996. Toronto, Ontario: McClelland & Stewart).

clip_image003

(Courtesy Worldcat)

Or, was it apostasy? Michael Patton has written this sad but challenging article, ‘Billy Graham and Charles Templeton: A Sad Tale of Two Evangelists’.

One comment by another person at the end of this Michael Patton article was to point to

the interview former atheist, Lee Strobel … conducted with Templeton. When Strobel asked him about Jesus, he said, ‘he’s the most important thing in my life.’ He stammered: ‘I . . . I . . . I adore him . . . Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus.’ Strobel was stunned. He listened in shock. He says that Templeton’s voice began to crack. He then said, ‘I . . . miss . . . him!’ With that the old man burst into tears; with shaking frame, he wept bitterly (see Strobel 2000:21-22).

For us, from the human side, we seem to see ‘seeming contradictions’, but I regard all of Scripture as theopneustos (breathed-out by God, 2 Tim 3:16-17) so that it doesn’t matter whether it is OT, NT or the words of Jesus, all are from God. We need to go to 2 Peter 3:16 to discern that Peter regarded Paul’s writings as Scripture. This would have application, by inference, to the entire NT.

A Calvinist objects

I had asked: Is it possible for God to sin? Of course not! Therefore, it is impossible for God to do some things. Sin is one of them. His reply was, ‘Is it impossible for Him to renew someone?’[6] He didn’t like the ‘impossible to restore again to repentance’ in Heb 6:4-6, stating, ‘That is ridiculous.  You[r] God is to (sic) small’. I had stated, ‘So it is IMPOSSIBLE for God to be tempted with evil’ and his retort was, ‘Irrelevant – with MEN it is impossible but for God ALL things are possible’. He mentioned, ‘All of the things you have mention (sic) that God cannot do concern moral issues. It is amusing and sad that you think in human events God is no longer omnipotent. If God can make anyone new to begin with, it is foolish to think He can’t renew them’.

I had asked him: Why don’t you take a read of this article in Christianity Today, ‘10 things God cannot do‘. Again the response: ‘Your God is too small and too weak’. ‘That is not new.  I read them years ago, probably before you were aware of them.  You don’t see the truth because you are mixing apples and oranges’.
His anger continued: ‘So if I don’t agree with you I can’t possibly be right.  How self-serving. I said you need to use the whole Bible and that is what you are failing to do’.

He complained:

It seems to me none  of you legalists understand the analogy between our natural birth and our spiritual birth. Why do you think God uses “born again?” So  we can connect the dots that everything that  is true in our natural birth is just as true in our spiritual birth. The main  thing we should learn  is that once the RELATIONSHIP is established in each birth, it can NEVER change.  Good, bad or indifferent you will ALWAYS be your parents child in both births.

Since legalist (sic) do not have the assurance of their eternal security then I Jn 5:13 is wrong or there is something wrong with their theology and I think we know it  is IMPOSSIBLE for there to be an error in God’s inspired word.

Resorting to logical fallacies

The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

(logical fallacies)

It is sad to see the way some, while in discussion, will resort to the use of logical fallacies. To the response above, I noted:[7]

So you are engaging in your ad hominem logical fallacy against me with the accusation, ‘You legalists’. We cannot have a logical discussion when you resort to the use of a logical fallacy.

Scripture has told us in Heb 6:4-6 that it is ‘impossible’ for God to do and that is ‘to restore again to repentance’ those who ‘fall away’. His reply was, ‘That is ridiculous.  Your God is too small’. No, I said, you are the one being ridiculous. My God is not too small. My God is so BIG that I believe what he says in Heb 6:4-6. I don’t throw out or redefine who he is and what he can do, when it doesn’t fit in with my predetermined theology. Admit it. It’s your Calvinistic theology that prevents your accepting Heb 6:4-6 with its plain interpretation.

To my statement that it was impossible for God to be tempted by evil and his ‘Irrelevant’ reply, I wrote: It’s spot on, mate. But you don’t like it when I expose your ridiculous statement that there is nothing that God cannot do. The facts are that Scripture affirms that there are a good number of things that it is impossible for God to do.

But he did admit:

All of the things you have mention (sic) that God cannot do concern moral issues.  It is amusing and sad that you think in human events God is no longer omnipotent.  If God can make anyone new to begin with, it is foolish to think He can’t  renew them.[8]

I countered: It doesn’t matter whether the things relate to moral issues or not. They still are things for which IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD TO DO. But you can’t accept what the plain teaching of Scripture is in this regard.

As for the accusation that my God is too small and too weak, I replied: No mate! My God is the creator and sustainer of the world and the one who offers salvation to the world. He’s the one who is coming again and will judge you and me as believers at the Judgment Seat of Christ.

He accused me of ‘misrepresentation’, which was wrong again. The fact is that he could not handle it when I exposed the inaccuracies of his interpretations of biblical statements.

The hole in his interpretation[9]

I asked again, ‘Can God sin?’ to which his response was: ‘Of course not but it is not impossible for Him to renew someone. Otherwise He is not omnipotent. Is God omnipotent?’

I asked: How is it that you can’t see the rabid contradiction in what you write? It is you who has been promoting this:

  • ‘I am sticking with “NOTHING is impossible with God” rather than ozspen’s limiting God’s power’.

Notice your emphasis on ‘NOTHING’. With your capital letters you screamed it out at us.

What method of biblical interpretation are you using? You are cherry-picking a verse to try to prove your Calvinistic theological point, but you have been caught out big time.

Where in the Bible does it say that ‘nothing is impossible with God’? Luke 1:34-38 states it:

34Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. 36“And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her (ESV).

So the message that ‘nothing will be impossible with God’ has a very specific context. It was dealing with the aged Elizabeth who was pregnant with a son, John the Baptist. God had done the impossible thing for Elizabeth ‘in her old age’.

It is not an absolute statement that NOTHING ABSOLUTELY WILL BE ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE WITH GOD. Why? Because that would make massive contradictions between the nature of God and his purpose in our world – and that is not the case.

The facts are that there are many things for which it is impossible for God to do. You have already admitted one of the contradictions in your statement, by admitting that God cannot sin.

This discussion has exposed a massive hole in your ability to interpret Scripture with your quoting a verse out of context (Luke 1:37) and making it apply across the board – when it does not.

And have a guess what? God has stated another one of his impossibilities. it is ‘impossible to restore again to repentance’ those who ‘fall away’ by committing apostasy. That’s Bible (Heb. 6:4-6).

Please learn to become a better interpreter of God’s Word rather than giving us your false understanding here of: ‘I am sticking with “NOTHING is impossible with God” rather than ozspen’s limiting God’s power’.

A predictable response

How would you expect this poster to respond to the above information?[10] In my reply I have incorporated pieces of his response.[11]

I asked a basic question: What method of biblical interpretation are you using?’

His reply was: ‘It is called using the whole Bible to determine the truth.   Try it, you’ll like it.’ [I will be using the first personal pronoun, ‘you’, in my reply directly to him online.]

You don’t know the difference between method of biblical interpretation and content of biblical interpretation. I asked about the method. You gave me the content. We can’t have a rational conversation when you confuse these matters.

I asked: ‘How is it that you can’t see the rabid contradiction in what you write? It is you who has been promoting this’.

Again, you don’t know how to answer, so you gave me this red herring fallacy: ‘You can’t seem to understand thee (sic) is a difference between moral conduct and non-moral conduct. ALL of the things you mentioned concerned moral conduct.  You are mixing apples and oranges. Now answer the question—Is God omnipotent?’
My question had to do with your contradiction in what you wrote. Your reply had to deal with ‘moral conduct’. You did not respond to my question about your contradiction. This is using a technique of avoidance.

I showed how you cherry-picked a verse in Luke 1:37 with Elizabeth’s pregnancy in her old age and nothing being impossible to God. Now you come back with this irrelevance:

‘I am not cherry picking any more than you are and let me remind you for the umteenth time, I am not a Calvinist.  I have not been caught by anything I have said and especially not by you.’

Of course you cherry-picked. And you did it with ‘Mt 19:26 – and looking at them Jesus said, “WITH PEOPLE this is impossible but with God ALL things are possible’.
Those are your words. What is Matt 19:26 talking about? It’s the story of the rich young man and Jesus teaching of Mt 19:26 was dealing with how difficult it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God (Mt 19:24). Then he made the statement: ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible’. Jesus was referring specifically to the rich and how difficult it is to enter the kingdom. Jesus was not expressing an absolute principle that with God all things are absolutely possible. We know this is so because we know that God cannot absolutely make a square circle, or commit sin.

Oz: ‘Please learn to become a better interpreter of God’s Word rather than giving us your false understanding here of’

Kermit: ‘Right, agree with oz or you can’t be right.  Take your own advise (sic) and try using all of God (sic) word, not just a snipit (sic).’

So you can’t tolerate it when your cherry-picking of verses is exposed. It has to do with hermeneutics, brother, and you’ve shown us how your view on ‘there is nothing that God cannot do’ is exposed on the anvil of verses you choose to use. These verses are specific to the occasion and are not designed to be general promotion of God’s absolute ability to do anything at any time, i.e. your view that there is nothing that God cannot do.

Conclusion

‘Nothing is impossible with God’ applied to two specific circumstances in the Gospels in Luke 1:37 and Matthew 19:26. God addressed those circumstances with his omnipotent power. However, in doing that God did not set in place an absolute principle that ‘nothing is impossible with God’.

We have seen that it is impossible for God to sin, be tempted with evil, and to make a square circle. There are some things that God cannot do. He cannot lie or act with injustice.
This fellow on the Christian forum refused to deal with the content of a significant amount of what I wrote. It’s impossible to have a rational conversation when a person does this.

I believe in the omnipotence of God. But this fellow’s teaching that there is absolutely nothing that God cannot do is unbiblical.

Works consulted


Strobel, L 2000. The case for faith: A journalist investigates the toughest objections to Christianity. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Notes


[1] Jim Parker#116, August 1, 2014, Christian Fellowship Forum, The Fellowship Hall, ‘Predestination’, available at: http://community.compuserve.com/n/pfx/forum.aspx?tsn=110&nav=messages&webtag=ws-fellowship&tid=123314 (Accessed 6 August 2014).

[2] Ibid., kcdavis222#117.

[3] Ibid., ozspen#118.

[4] Ibid, charma#119.

[5] Ibid, ozspen#120.

[6] Ibid., kcdavis222#121.

[7] Ibid., ozspen#124.

[8] Ibid., kcdavis222#124.

[9] Ibid, ozspen#131.

[10] You can read his reply at ibid., kcdavis222#135.

[11] Ibid., ozspen#136.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 December 2015.

What is open theism and what are the dangers?

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

 By Spencer D Gear

Dr Clark Pinnock (photo courtesy Friends Network)

The father of Open Theology is regarded as the late Clark Pinnock (died 15 Aug 2010). Here is an online lecture by Pinnock, ‘Clark Pinnock on Open Theology (Pt. 1 of 7)’. Here’s an interview with Pinnock on the topic, ‘Does Prayer Change Things? Yes, if you’re an Open Theist’.

Who are the advocates of openness theology? Greg Boyd, Clark Pinnock, Richard Rice, and John Sanders are some of the prominent proponents.  Greg Boyd has stated that  God ‘does not know every detail about what will come to pass…The future is, to some degree at least, open ended and God knows it as such’ (Boyd 2000:8).

Open theism questions these fundamentals of orthodox theology:

  • God’s omniscience (all knowledge);
  • God’s immutability (unchanging);
  • God’s eternity;
  • God’s omnipresence;
  • God’s unity;
  • God’s omnipotence (all-powerful).

See the article, “An examination of open theism“.
Also see, “The doctrine of open theism“.

In my understanding, this doctrine is a serious threat to an orthodox view of the attributes of God. For an assessment, see, ‘The dangers of Open Theism’, by Tim Chaffey. Other assessments include:

For another brief overview, see my article:Does God change his mind?

Notes

Boyd, G A 2000. God of the possible: A biblical introduction to the open view of God. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Pinnock, C; Rice R; Sanders, J; Hasker, W; & Basinger, D 1994. The openness of God: A biblical challenge to the traditional understanding of God. Downers Grove, Illinois, USA: InterVarsity Press / Carlisle, UK: The Paternoster Press.

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 18 November 2015.